Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant hopes to make his state “the safest place in America” for unborn babies by supporting a bill to ban abortions after 15 weeks.
The state Senate currently is considering a bill that would push back the current state abortion limit by five weeks. State House Bill 1510 would create the earliest ban on abortion in any state in the U.S. The bill would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks except when there are risks to the life or physical health of the mother, or fatal fetal anomalies.
Earlier this month, the state House passed the bill with bipartisan support.
Responding to the vote, Bryant said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk, The DM Online reports.
“As I have repeatedly said, I want Mississippi to be the safest place in America for an unborn child,” Bryant said, according to a Mississippi Today article. “House Bill 1510 will help us achieve that goal, and I am grateful the House passed it. I look forward to signing it once the Senate follows suit.”
State records show about 200 abortions a year are performed on babies who are between 15 and 20 weeks old at the time they are killed in the abortion.
Mississippi currently is one of more than a dozen states that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks. Owners of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in the state, said they do abortions up to 18 weeks. The abortion center is considering a legal challenge if the bill passes.
A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman also hinted at a legal challenge if the bill passes.
“A 15-week abortion ban is an unconstitutional attempt by opponents to impose restrictions on access to safe and legal abortion,” said Aimee Lewis, vice president of external affairs for the abortion chain’s Mississippi affiliate. “Abortion is a deeply personal, often complicated decision for a woman to make. These decisions should be made by a woman, in consultation with her doctor, her family and her faith – not by politicians.”
Pro-life lawmakers said they have women’s and babies’ best interests at heart.
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Pro-life state Rep. Becky Currie said 15 weeks is enough time to decide whether to have an abortion.
“I do believe that life is precious and children are a gift from God,” Currie said, according to the local news. “And if you have a child and don’t want it there is someone else who does want it.”
State Rep. Andy Gipson, previously said they want to protect women’s health by prohibiting later-term abortions, which are riskier to women.
“The risk to the mother is the prime driver in this bill,” the Republican lawmaker said. “I think the Supreme Court has recognized that the states have an interest in protecting human life.”
At this point, it is unclear if such a bill would withstand a court challenge. President Donald Trump promised to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, and pro-life advocates praised his choice of Neil Gorsuch; however, there still is a majority of judges on the high court who do not think unborn babies deserve a right to life.
Several years ago, North Dakota and Arkansas passed bills to prohibit abortions after an unborn baby has a detectable heartbeat (about six weeks), but federal courts struck down both laws.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the following about the bills: “Because there is no genuine dispute that (North Dakota’s law) generally prohibits abortions before viability — as the Supreme Court has defined that concept — and because we are bound by Supreme Court precedent holding that states may not prohibit pre-viability abortions, we must affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiffs.”
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the cases in 2016.